Women’s History Month – Looking Back to Chart a Path Forward
This series is sponsored by JetBlue and went through the normal TriplePundit editorial review process
March means saying goodbye to winter, turning our clocks ahead, watching the best of college basketball and celebrating Women’s History Month. In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month to challenge us to reflect upon and recognize the achievements – great and small – of American women.
It’s also a time to think about what we each can do to harness the full potential of women in the workforce, and inspire the next generation. JetBlue is focusing on the future by encouraging girls to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education as early as possible so they can eventually help fuel our airline and industry. This is one of the reasons we recently collaborated with Disney on two initiatives over the past few months to support the new film “A Wrinkle in Time,” in theaters March 9. Both events encouraged girls to be bold and pursue their passions in tech and website coding.
In aviation, a field that relies heavily on STEM, many of us look to trailblazing women such as Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Sally Ride, and Margaret Hamilton for inspiration. Reflecting on the remarkable paths these women charted inspires women and girls nationwide to dream – and dream big!
It may be hard to believe, but in 2018 less than seven percent of U.S. commercial pilots and three percent of aircraft mechanics and technicians are women. This is not just an aviation industry issue. According to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, only 14 percent of all U.S. engineers are female. Statistics like these are why we created the JetBlue Foundation, to provide exposure, access, and funding to under-represented communities (women and minorities) in the STEM field so that JetBlue can continue to do its part to change the metrics of the aviation industry.
There is clearly a need for more women role models in many fields but particularly in STEM. Seeing is believing and now more than ever girls need to have role models who represent opportunities realized rather than challenges too daunting to face. Early exposure to STEM—through access and mentoring—helps enhance future career options and success.
Later this month, JetBlue’s Women in Flight Crewmember (our word for Employee) Resource Group will host their signature Fly Like A Girl event, bringing crewmembers’ daughters, nieces and local girls to our hangar at New York’s JFK Airport. For the fourth year in a row, participants will hear what it’s like to run an airline from female crewmembers representing careers below the wing, above the wing and everything in between. It’s an unforgettable day for everyone who attends, and we’ll be bringing the event to Salt Lake City and Orlando later this year.
Additionally, non-profit organizations such as Girls In Tech and Black Girls Code provide support to girls interested in STEM. In January, the JetBlue Foundation, JetBlue Equals – our airline’s Diversity & Inclusion platform and JetBlue Technology Ventures, in collaboration with Disney and Girls in Tech, hosted an event called “Even More Girls – in Tech” to introduce girls to website coding. Additionally, last week the JetBlue Foundation flew girls from Black Girls Code to Los Angeles for the “Warriors Who Code” challenge inspired by the film A Wrinkle in Time and sponsored by HP and Nissan.
We had the pleasure of collaborating with Disney around the release of A Wrinkle in Time. The film was directed by visionary Ava DuVernay and the story details an epic adventure across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. The film is based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides. The film demonstrates the strength that comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.
When asked about the woman who inspired me most, I can tell you – it’s a ton more than one. I think of my mother, who never once said, “A woman can’t do that.” However, at this stage in my life, it’s the women of JetBlue, hundreds of whom I have come to know well, who inspire me the most. These women inspire by their lives of achievement, generosity, and kindness. It is awe-inspiring to see how they put their enormous talents to work to bring together people from everywhere. In doing so, the women of JetBlue inspire me to want to be a better leader, airline professional, and person. I will forever be humbled and grateful for the sheer grace that our crewmembers exhibit in the pursuit of JetBlue’s mission every day.
Joanna Geraghty is President of the JetBlue Foundation. She also serves as JetBlue’s Executive Vice President of Customer Experience, responsible for Airports, Customer Support (Reservations), and Inflight, the airline’s main customer-facing teams. Ms. Geraghty served as JetBlue’s Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer from 2010-2014 and was previously the airline’s Vice President and Associate General Counsel and Director of Litigation and Regulatory Affairs. She has been with the New York-based airline since 2005.
Before joining JetBlue, Ms. Geraghty was a partner at the law firm of Holland & Knight, in their litigation section in New York. She received her B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross in 1994, her master’s in International Relations from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 1997, and her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law in 1997.
Images credit: JetBlue